3
Apr
2014

Is Australia really going to outlaw Google Glass??

There’s been a quite a lot of media articles with very inflammatory headlines circulating in Australia this week in response to the release of the Australian Law Reform Commission discussion paper titled Serious Invasions of Privacy in the Digital Era.

Headlines like:
(click the links to read the original articles)

My initial response was one of frustration and annoyance that seemingly, people who didn’t understand what Glass is actually about, were potentially going to make Australia a global laughing stock by banning a technology that doesn’t even widely exist here yet. They would be locking our population away from what I believe are really significant advances that Glass can deliver, in particular to workplaces.
Once I read through the articles though, I realised beyond the headline, I couldn’t really find anything that suggested that the ALRC was really calling for a ban on Glass. So, I went to the source document to see what it actually said.
What I found was this: Serious Invasions
of Privacy in the Digital Era
 (click the title to view the full publication)
Glass is mentioned on p199:

Wearable devices
13.22 Wearable devices, such as head-mounted cameras, have also generated public discussion. A notable example is Google’s ‘Glass’ technology, a wearable device that includes video and audio recording capabilities. Several stakeholders noted the privacy challenges presented by such devices.

If you turn to p200 (or rather, scroll down. Surely no one actually prints out a 236 page report to read!), you reach the part that none of the articles I saw seemed to mention which says:

13.24 It is important to note that uniform surveillance device laws would not, and should not, prohibit the use of such devices generally. A wearable device may have many legitimate uses that do not amount to surveillance. Whether or not the use of a device constituted an offence would depend on the circumstances of its use, such as the activity being captured, the extent of the monitoring or recording, and whether or not parties to the activity were aware that the device was being used.

So, while I make no claims to either being a lawyer or having any legal training, the interpretation to me would seem to be pretty simple.

Unless you are using Glass to deliberately capture video or audio recordings without people’s consent and in a manner that is viewed to be an invasion of their privacy, Glass is no more likely to be banned than any of the plethora of devices which already deliver this capability. And, I might add, does so in a far less obvious way than wearing the equivalent of a mobile phone prominently attached to your head!

I remain a passionate believer that Glass (or the next generation of Glass-like devices that will undoubtedly follow) has the ability to transform the workflows of many businesses, delivering significant gains in safety, efficiency and productivity.

I’m relieved that, once you get past the inflammatory headlines, it appears that Australia is not actually gearing up as a nation to preclude itself from accessing these benefits.

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